Volvo S90 review
The Volvo S90 is a decent alternative to large German execs, but a high list price may deter some buyers
The Volvo S90 is the company's best crack yet at taking on the dominant German brands in the premium executive saloon sector. The Swedish sophistication in the cabin makes it an appealing environment in which to undertake long journeys, although it's not as plush all round as a Mercedes E-Class.
The real strengths of the S90 are its cruising refinement and, as is often the case with Volvo, the amount of safety kit on board. It also gets a decent haul of regular equipment, making the big exec one of the better-kitted offerings in an area of the market that traditionally has long options lists.
The driving dynamics aren’t on a par with the class benchmark, though; the S90 isn’t quite as agile as the likes of the 5 Series, and it doesn’t soak up bumps as effectively as an E-Class. And if you don’t want a plug-in hybrid, you’ll have to look elsewhere - it’s now the only available S90 powertrain.
About the Volvo S90
Volvo has been making credible rivals to large German executive cars such as the Mercedes E-Class and BMW 5 Series for years, and the S90 is a scion of a notable family of Swedish automotive success stories. Its ancestors include the 740 and 760 from the 1980s, the 940 and 960 in the ‘90s, and the S80 from the ‘noughties, all of which enjoyed widespread admiration. The S90 arrived around the middle of the last decade to a similarly warm reception but is now beginning to show its years. Still, thanks to Volvo’s trademark cool and contemporary interior design, and its effective Sensus infotainment set-up, there’s a lot to like about the S90 yet.
As with its illustrious forebears, the Volvo S90 rivals the cars from the premium German brands on price, but offers a slightly different take on the executive car genre. In the S90’s case it’s a less dynamic and more comfort-focused experience, and the big Swedish saloon is certainly a relaxing way to travel.
Car group tests
- BMW 5 Series vs Audi A6 vs Volvo S90
- Lexus ES vs BMW 5 Series vs Volvo S90
- BMW 530e vs Volvo S90 T8
- Audi A6 vs BMW 5 Series vs Volvo S90
Used car tests
The range is now limited to the comfort-biased Inscription and sporty R-Design trim levels, but both offer good levels of standard equipment.
Volvo previously offered the S90 with a variety of engines, comprising of the D4 and D5 diesel, T4 and T5 petrol and T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid versions. All delivered a good spread of power, and helped the S90 compete against its rivals, which include the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes E-Class and Audi A6, plus the Jaguar XF and Lexus ES, which offer something different from the German norm.
However, from mid-2020, Volvo decided to limit the choice of S90 powertrains to just the range-topping T8 plug-in hybrid, which means you'll have to find over £56,000 in order to own one.
The S90 T8 unit delivers 300bhp from its 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine, while there's an 86bhp boost from the electric motor mounted on the rear axle. The system in total offers a claimed 0–62mph time of 5.1 seconds, and a maximum electric-only range of up to 37 miles.
Standard equipment for the S90 includes 19-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, leather upholstery, two-zone climate control, heated front seats, a 12.3-inch digital instrument binnacle and a nine-inch infotainment system.
The R-Design trim adds an aggressive exterior styling pack, sports seats and privacy glass, while Inscription-spec cars include chrome trim, deeper-pile carpets and a massage function for the front seats.
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In this review
- 1Verdict - currently readingThe Volvo S90 is a decent alternative to large German execs, but a high list price may deter some buyers
- 2Engines, performance and driveExcellent cruising refinement, but the chassis feels either too stiff or too soft. Larger wheels dent ride quality, too
- 3MPG, CO2 and Running CostsThe S90 T8 hybrid will provide low running costs, but you need to keep the battery charged up to make the most of it
- 4Interior, design and technologyThe S90 is a stylish premium executive saloon, with distinctive looks and a quality feel
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceThe S90's boot isn't the biggest in the class, but capable enough for most needs
- 6Reliability and SafetyVolvo has an excellent safety record, while the S90 should prove to be reliable